Daily Digest 5/10/2023

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents

Broadband Funding

2022 Federal Broadband Funding Report: Investing in Internet For All  |  Read below  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
New Dashboard Highlights Coordinated Federal Investments in High-Speed Internet Programs  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
2022 Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Annual Report  |  Read below  |  Research  |  National Telecommunications and Information Administration
How the Farm Bill could subsidize a revolution in high-tech farming  |  Read below  |  Saul Elbein  |  Analysis  |  Hill, The
What Minnesota wants in the federal farm bill  |  Read below  |  Torey Van Oot  |  Axios
Connection found: Rural broadband bill gets its day in the Senate  |  Read below  |  Nick Robertson  |  Hill, The

Digital Divide

Five ways companies are closing the global digital divide  |  Read below  |  Julia Mueller  |  Hill, The


‘Rip and Replace’: The Tech Cold War Is Upending Wireless Carriers  |  Read below  |  Cecilia Kang  |  New York Times
Justice Department Says It Dismantled Russia’s ‘Most Sophisticated’ Malware Network  |  New York Times
US says it has disabled major Russian cyberespionage operation  |  Washington Post
American extremists linked to Russian sites  |  Axios
Jessica Brandt Congressional Testimony: An information strategy for the United States  |  Brookings
Dallas (TX) cyberattack highlights ransomware’s risks to public safety, health  |  Washington Post

State/Local Initiatives

Internet costs, poor service keep southeast Ohioans offline  |  Read below  |  Chris Abreu  |  Kent State
West Virginia keeps working to extend broadband, Carmichael tells lawmakers  |  Read below  |  Brad McElhinny  |  MetroNews
Podcast: Chattanooga's mayor on gigabit broadband, quantum networks and digital equity  |  Light Reading


5G Networks Are Performing Worse. What’s Going On?  |  Read below  |  Michael Koziol  |  Analysis  |  ieee spectrum
After years of explosive growth, 5G’s future is mired in politics  |  Read below  |  Rebecca Klar  |  Analysis  |  Hill, The
Samsung focuses on regional US wireless carriers  |  Fierce

Platforms/Social Media/AI

A plan to redesign the internet could make apps that no one controls  |  Read below  |  Will Heaven  |  Analysis  |  MIT Technology Review
House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan threatens to hold Google in contempt of Congress for failing to produce subpoenaed documents  |  Read below  |  Lauren Feiner  |  CNBC
Remembering America's first social network: the landline telephone  |  National Public Radio
Health advisory on social media use in adolescence  |  American Psychological Association
From recipes to product reviews to how-to books, artificial intelligence text generators are quietly authoring more and more of  |  Washington Post


Seoul Sees US Extending China Export Waivers for its Chipmakers  |  Bloomberg


President Biden Nominates Deborah Robinson for Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  White House
Sen Feinstein Returning to Senate, Bringing Democrats Back to Full Majority  |  New York Times

Company News

Frontier Reports First-Quarter 2023 Results  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Frontier Communications
Today's Top Stories

Broadband Funding

2022 Federal Broadband Funding Report: Investing in Internet For All

The FY21 Federal Broadband Funding Report includes A) a description of how many residents of the United States were provided broadband by which universal service mechanism or which federal broadband support program and B) an estimate of the economic impact of such broadband deployment efforts on local economies, including any effect on small businesses or jobs. There are four key findings:

  1. Appropriated funding investments in broadband increased substantially exceeding FY20 funding by 694% (or $11.8 billion).
  2. A more comprehensive look at broadband investments comes into view with the important inclusion of Tribal data from five agencies.
  3. In the second year of reported activity, a higher percentage of outlayed funding goes towards digital inclusion or adoption.
  4. NTIA defined a foundational architecture for assessing economic impacts. Early inputs into this model project broadband investments could add $140 billion to the US rural economy and improve small business survival rates by 30%.

New Dashboard Highlights Coordinated Federal Investments in High-Speed Internet Programs

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a new dashboard highlighting federal investments in high-speed Internet programs. NTIA developed the dashboard to accompany the Federal Broadband Funding Report. The data in the Investing in Internet for All Dashboard serves as a benchmark of recent federal investments into high-speed Internet funding programs, beginning in Fiscal Year 21 (October 2020-September 2021). Federal broadband spending from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other federal initiatives passed after FY21 will be included in future iterations of the dashboard. The dashboard

  • Includes spending data from 13 agencies across 98 federal high-speed Internet programs. 
  • Reports Tribal broadband funding for the first time.  
  • Includes data by federal program at the state level.  
  • Breaks out funding by appropriated (budgeted by Congress), obligated (awarded for spending by the program) and outlayed (spent by the program). 

2022 Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth Annual Report

The ACCESS BROADBAND Act requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) to produce an annual report that contains a description of OICG’s work for the previous year and the number of US residents who received broadband as a result of Federal broadband support programs and the Universal Service Fund Programs.  OICG’s key accomplishments across its four interconnected core pillars include 1) Fund Broadband and Digital Inclusion Efforts, 2) Leverage Data for Decision Making, 3) Facilitate Interagency, State, Tribal, and Private Sector Coordination, and 4) Build Capacity of Communities. 

How the Farm Bill could subsidize a revolution in high-tech farming

Saul Elbein  |  Analysis  |  Hill, The

The ongoing Farm Bill negotiations may mean linking millions of Americans to the 21st-century economy and taking a step toward the broader dream of high-tech agriculture. Since the last Farm Bill was passed in 2018, the federal government has spent billions to try to bring high-speed internet to the nearly 12 million rural households that don’t have it. The $1.4 trillion omnibus Farm Bill will fund and set guidelines around federal subsidies for causes ranging from rural energy, crop insurance, and, above all, nutrition. Since 2018, high-speed internet — once seen as a luxury — has been discussed in the same vital terms as issues like disaster funding for drought. The Farm Bill package passed in that year included funding for the Reconnect program, which subsidizes broadband providers to bring high-speed internet to rural areas that lack it. One impetus behind the push for rural broadband is unleashing the economic potential of rural America. Large-scale agriculture in America relies on farm equipment like tractors and combines that are increasingly in continual contact and conversation with satellites overhead, and moisture and soil sensors in the fields — allowing for the precise and automated delivery of seed, water, pesticides, and fertilizer. The report suggested many future farm tasks could be carried out by drones — which can save considerable weight if they can rely on the cloud computing possibilities of the wider internet for some of their processing. This, however, requires broadband.

What Minnesota wants in the federal farm bill

Torey Van Oot  |  Axios

A sweeping food and agriculture bill in the works in Washington (DC) is set to reshape the future of farming in Minnesota. Minnesota lawmakers are set to play a big role in shaping the final bill. Sens Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, while Reps. Angie Craig (D-MN) and Brad Finstad (R-MN) are on the House panel. In terms of broadband, an estimated 144,000 Minnesota households still don't have access to high-speed internet. That's a problem, especially for a growing number of families where one person farms and the other works remote from a rural area, Sen Klobuchar said.

Connection found: Rural broadband bill gets its day in the Senate

Nick Robertson  |  Hill, The

A bipartisan effort to push the Federal Communications Commission to expand internet access to rural areas will finally get a Senate hearing, two years after the bill was first introduced. The Reforming Broadband Connectivity Act has support in both the House and Senate and will get its day in the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday, May 11th, 2023. The bill — introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) in the House — orders the FCC to determine how to modernize the Universal Service Fund (USF). The fund comprises a system of subsidies and fees meant to expand telecommunications access in the US.  It was initially focused on telephone service, but lawmakers now see it as a key tool for expanding broadband access for rural areas, low-income households, and critical health services. The bill also asks the FCC to pay special attention to how any change in the fund would impact seniors. As more seniors have landlines and make more traditional long-distance calls than any other group, they are most impacted by the current structure of fund collection. While the bill leaves the specifics to the FCC, the idea would be for the agency to levy similar contribution requirements on internet providers and change the contribution levels for other increasingly common forms of communication. If the FCC creates rules to increase fee revenue, that money could supplement the funds already in the fund and provide additional support for programs that expand broadband access to rural areas and for low-income households.

Digital Divide

Five ways companies are closing the global digital divide

Julia Mueller  |  Hill, The

Rapidly advancing technologies are further highlighting the global impact of the digital divide, which is the gap between those with reliable access to high-speed internet services and those without it. Here are five creative ways companies are trying to bridge the divide:

  • Digital literacy: Xfinity offers an “Internet Essentials” program that includes digital literacy learning materials; A 2019 report from the Technology Policy Institute looking at the “Internet Essentials” program found that digital skills training boosts people to use it for “learning, job search, and improving job skills.” 
  • Digital navigators: To account for lags in digital literacy, some groups and companies are focused on upping the quality and availability of technical support. Some communities and groups are also pushing so-called “digital navigators,” or people trained to help support digital inclusion. 
  • Support for women and girls: Helping women and girls learn crucial digital skills and encouraging them toward studies in science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on training and other initiatives “not only improves their career opportunities but reduces their risk of gender-based violence and creates a brighter future for all,” said US Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer.
  • Lower-cost internet for students, and families with students: Given the importance of internet access for schooling — whether that’s remote classes or homework — some internet companies are working to bridge the digital divide by offering discounted internet access to students and families with students. 
  • Balloons: Companies are also getting creative with methods to get high-speed internet to rural areas. Alphabet’s Google X lab, focused on developing emerging tech, launched “Project Loon” a few years ago, a program that aimed to transmit internet signals to hard-to-reach areas from balloons.


‘Rip and Replace’: The Tech Cold War Is Upending Wireless Carriers

Cecilia Kang  |  New York Times

As the US and China battle for geopolitical and technological primacy, the fallout has reached small wireless carriers in dozens of states. They are on the receiving end of the Biden administration’s sweeping policies to suppress China’s rise. What the wireless carriers must do, under a program known as “rip and replace,” has become the starkest physical manifestation of the tech Cold War between the two superpowers. The program, which took effect in 2020, mandates that American companies tear out telecommunications equipment made by the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. US officials have warned that gear from those companies could be used by Beijing for espionage and to steal commercial secrets. Instead, US carriers have to use equipment from non-Chinese companies. The Federal Communications Commission, which oversees the program, would then reimburse the carriers from a pot of $1.9 billion intended to cover their costs. But cleansing US networks of Chinese tech has not been easy. The costs have already ballooned above $5 billion, according to the FCC., more than double what Congress appropriated for reimbursements. Many carriers also face long supply chain delays for new equipment. The program’s burden has fallen disproportionately on smaller carriers, which relied more on the cheaper gear from the Chinese firms than large companies like AT&T and Verizon. Given rip-and-replace’s difficulties, some smaller wireless companies now say they may not be able to upgrade their networks and continue serving their communities, where they are often the only internet providers.


Internet costs, poor service keep southeast Ohioans offline

Chris Abreu  |  Kent State

According to the US Census Bureau, between 2017 to 2021, about 28% of households in Ohio’s Columbiana County (more than 11,500 households) did not have an active broadband subscription. A similar problem exists across rural Appalachia in Ohio — and it is an expensive problem to fix. Regions like Southeast Ohio present a challenge to installing broadband due to the hilly and rural terrain. Just 20% of Vinton County’s households have access to broadband, according to the Ohio Department of Development. The Ohio government passed a $250 million spending package in 2022 and leveraged that money through the private sector, meaning they asked companies to add more money to the project. The spending package ended up doubling to $500 million. According to Lt. Governor Jon Husted (R-OH), all of that money will go toward a broadband expansion plan in Ohio. Since the Internet is a service provided by private companies, he said the government’s plan is to give monetary incentives to Internet companies to extend their coverage to people in need. The goal of the Ohio government’s plan is to not only extend internet service into these communities but also ensure that internet access is affordable.

West Virginia keeps working to extend broadband, Carmichael tells lawmakers

Brad McElhinny  |  MetroNews

West Virginia development officials have been focusing on expanding broadband internet service through a range of resources, Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael told legislators. Money is flowing from federal, state, and local sources; specifically $33 million in state and local recovery funds, $70 million in Capital Project Funds (CPF), and $44 million in private investment. That adds up to $147 million in total investment. Carmichael said American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have gone toward funding 24 projects in 38 West Virginia counties, accounting for more than 3,000 miles of infrastructure. Carmichael said state officials have focused on mapping to ensure there isn’t unnecessary redundancy. Kelly Workman, director of the state Office of Broadband, said three of the 24 total projects funded have already been completed within the past year, accounting for 79 miles of fiber.


5G Networks Are Performing Worse. What’s Going On?

Michael Koziol  |  Analysis  |  ieee spectrum

By now, the cellular industry’s rollout of 5G networks is three or four years old. 5G networks are continuing to deliver better and faster service than 4G in general. Compared with the 5G service from 2022, however, the networks’ upload and download times have generally declined around the world, according to speed-test data from the network diagnostics company Ookla. Even the most robust 5G networks are barely cracking 1 gigabit per second. Part of the problem is the same problem had by every cellular generation. These are the normal growing pains as more customers buy new phones and other devices that can tap into these networks. “You look to 4G and we had the same,” says Mark Giles, an industry analyst at Ookla. “So with initial deployments of 4G, there was a lot of capacity to soak up those early users. And then as more and more users come on, that capacity gets used up, and you need to look at densification.” Giles points out that most network operators began their 5G rollouts by deploying non-standalone 5G networks, where a 5G network is built on top of the existing 4G network’s core infrastructure. This strategy has hampered 5G deployments because operators are limited to building 5G networks wherever they have existing cell towers and other infrastructure. There are also regulatory and permitting problems that operators are running up against in dense cities. Outside of cities, different problems are taking root. As more people in more places start using 5G networks, there’s some degradation in network performance to be expected, in the aggregate.

After years of explosive growth, 5G’s future is mired in politics

Rebecca Klar  |  Analysis  |  Hill, The

5G coverage has expanded across the US, fueling personal and commercial applications. But as 5G spreads — with roughly 62 percent of Americans able to receive high-speed coverage at home — rising demand, lack of infrastructure, and a political impasse are posing roadblocks to pushing it further. Approximately 206.4 million Americans can receive high-speed 5G coverage at home, according to data by Broadband Now, an independent broadband availability website. But that access isn’t spread evenly across the country with gaps, especially in more rural areas. Stakeholders are grappling with a political roadblock: a fight over access to spectrum. Congress let the Federal Communications Commission’s longstanding authority to auction spectrum lapse in March 2023 for the first time in decades, an issue that both the agency and the wireless industry are urging Congress to fix in order to let the US meet demand and stay globally competitive. At the crux of the political issue is Department of Defense allies on Capitol Hill pushing for the government to keep control over more of the available spectrum, with wireless companies pushing for more spectrum to be available to be licensed to them. 

Social Media/Platforms

A plan to redesign the internet could make apps that no one controls

Will Heaven  |  Analysis  |  MIT Technology Review

Dfinity is building what it calls the internet computer, a decentralized technology spread across a network of independent data centers that allow the software to run anywhere on the internet rather than in server farms that are increasingly controlled by large firms, such as Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. The company will be releasing its software to third-party developers, who it hopes will start making the internet computer’s killer apps. Rewinding the internet is not about nostalgia. The dominance of a few companies, and the ad-tech industry that supports them, has distorted the way we communicate—pulling public discourse into a gravity well of hate speech and misinformation—and upended basic norms of privacy. There is an economic problem, too. The effective monopoly of these firms stifles the kind of innovation that spawned them in the first place. Dfinity’s internet computer offers an alternative. On the normal internet, both data and software are stored on specific computers—servers at one end and laptops, smartphones, and game consoles at the other. Dfinity is introducing a new standard, which it calls the internet computer protocol (ICP). These new rules let developers move software around the internet as well as data. All software needs computers to run on, but with ICP the computers could be anywhere. Instead of running on a dedicated server in Google Cloud, for example, the software would have no fixed physical address, moving between servers owned by independent data centers around the world.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan threatens to hold Google in contempt of Congress for failing to produce subpoenaed documents

Lauren Feiner  |  CNBC

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) threatened enforcement action against Google that could include holding the company in contempt of Congress for failing to produce documents the committee subpoenaed. In a letter to a lawyer for Google shared exclusively with CNBC, Chairman Jordan called the company’s compliance so far “insufficient” and demanded it hands over more information. Chairman Jordan issued subpoenas to the CEOs of Google parent Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft in February 2023. The subpoenas demanded that the companies hand over communication with the US government to “understand how and to what extent the Executive Branch coerced and colluded with companies and other intermediaries to censor speech. The House Judiciary Committee may also seek to take other actions against Google, like deposing the company’s management or trying to restrict federal dollars from going to Google in future legislation.


President Biden Nominates Deborah Robinson for Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator

Press Release  |  White House

President Joe Biden nominated Deborah Robinson for Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. Robinson is an attorney with extensive experience protecting intellectual property rights on a global scale. Her career includes leadership roles as a corporate attorney and in public service as a prosecutor. As head of intellectual property enforcement at Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), Robinson developed and implemented anti-piracy protocols to protect music, television, digital, and consumer-products properties. She built the global content protection group, amassed evidence for criminal prosecutions, and directed civil litigation matters. She also coordinated regularly with social media and app platforms to create specialized enforcement workflows and forged alliances among several trade associations and industry coalitions. As a prosecutor, Robinson supervised 35 attorneys and the litigation of 65,000 cases annually while also maintaining a personal caseload of high-profile major felonies.

Company News

Frontier Reports First-Quarter 2023 Results

Press Release  |  Frontier Communications

Frontier Communications reported first-quarter 2023 results:

  • Built fiber to 339,000 locations;
  • Added a record 87,000 fiber broadband customers, resulting in fiber broadband customer growth of 19% from the first quarter of 2022;
  • Ranked No. 1 for the fastest internet upload speeds in the US according to Ookla Speedtest results from the first quarter of 2023;
  • Consumer revenue of $761 million decreased 1.9% from the first quarter of 2022 as strong growth in fiber broadband was more than offset by declines in legacy copper broadband and voice;
  • Consumer fiber revenue of $448 million increased 10.1% over the first quarter of 2022 as growth in consumer broadband, voice, and others more than offset declines in video;
  • Consumer fiber broadband revenue of $298 million increased by 17.3% over the first quarter of 2022 driven by growth in fiber broadband customers;
  • Consumer fiber broadband customer net additions of 84,000 resulted in consumer fiber broadband customer growth of 19.5% from the first quarter of 2022;
  • Consumer fiber broadband customer churn of 1.20% was roughly flat with churn of 1.19% in the first quarter of 2022;
  • Consumer fiber broadband average revenue per user (ARPU) of $61.44 decreased 1.1% from the first quarter of 2022 driven primarily by the autopay and gift-card incentives introduced in the third quarter of 2021.

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Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org), Grace Tepper (grace AT benton DOT org), and David L. Clay II (dclay AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.

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